Stars: Bill Oberst Jr., Vinny Curran, Ian Tripp, Brendan Cahalan, Ryan Schafer, Seton Edgerton, Iliyana Apostolova| Written by Ian Tripp | Directed by Ian Tripp, Ryan Schafer
Everybody Dies by the End opens as talk show host Willy Wilson (Bill Oberst Jr.; I Hear the Trees Whispering, Hunting Grounds) goading cult director Alfred Costella (Vinny Curran; The Endless, Machine Head) into what seems to be a career-ending meltdown. But ten years later he’s back and offering Calvin (Ian Tripp; Imperial Iliad) and his soundman Mark played by Joshua Wyble who actually worked sound on this film as well as The Evil Rises and Wallflower among others, a job. They’ll be documenting what he says will be his greatest, and last, production. It’s a shot in chronological order with all practical effects masterpiece entitled Everybody Dies by the End.
Making their feature-length debut, directors Ian Tripp and Ryan Schafer, working from a script by Tripp, frame Everybody Dies by the End as a mockumentary and let Calvin and Mark be our eyes and ears as they film what looks much more likely to be a trainwreck rather than a comeback.
For most of the first hour, Everybody Dies by the End is a dark comedy. Rather than be a more realistic send-up of indie filmmaking however it starts with the project already heading off the rails. Then it adds on scenes that feel like some of the more outrageous incidents you read about. As I watched, the behind-the-scenes stories about the David Carradine film Deathsport kept popping into my head.
The film centres on Costella who the viewer quickly realizes never recovered from the breakdown that opens the film. Curran does a great job of portraying his mood swings from almost maniacally friendly and jovial one minute to being an utter bastard the next. He’s given solid support by Brendan Cahalan (Clown Time) and Ryan Schafer (Bag-Head) as his sycophant assistants Grant and Howard.
As the film goes on however the moments of humorous mania become progressively rarer as the film’s tone darkens. Costella’s interaction with cast members Theo (Seton Edgerton) and Allison (Iliyana Apostolova; Howard Original, The Black Mamba) becomes abusive and it becomes less of a horror comedy and a sense of impending horror begins to take over as we go into the last act.
That might be a little too late for some viewers, and I can see their point as I’ve had that complaint about plenty of other films. Everybody Dies by the End however manages to keep the buildup entertaining enough that I stayed interested, unlike the films that equate an hour of wandering through the woods and listening to bland dialogue with building suspense.
Everybody Dies by the End has one big flaw that really hurts it though. We’re never shown anything that explains why Costella has such a hold over his crew. He’s a literal cult filmmaker in that sense and he just doesn’t seem nearly charismatic enough to exert that kind of influence over people. That weakens what would have otherwise been a much more effective final act as everyone gives their all to complete the film. One thing that does help the final act power through that are some inventive deaths and a bit of highly effective gore from special makeup effects artist Doris Lew (The Blind Witness, The Face of God).
But Tripp and Schafer still get more right than they do wrong and the film’s small cast and crew, many of which had roles in front of and behind the camera, that Everybody Dies by the End is still worth seeing once it makes its appearance on streaming services.
Everybody Dies by the End screened as part of this year’s Arrow Video London Frightfest.